That got your attention!
You may be wondering, “is she saying that watching TV causes brain damage?” Well, not exactly (but I’m not saying it doesn’t, either).
After years of studying what actually causes cognitive decline, research shows that a number of lifestyle choices have an impact on the development of degenerative brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s Disease. The big question, to me, is why do we make these lifestyle choices in the first place?
The answer, in large part, has to do with information we derive from watching television.
We may laugh about it, but the phrase “AS SEEN ON TV” remains a powerful reminder of just how ingrained the veracity of anything ingested from that medium is regarded in the minds of the American public.
Commercials shown on broadcast TV in the 60s and 70s revealed a desirable life filled with modern conveniences, including delicious, easy-to-prepare foods and marvelous labor-saving devices. The American Dream as I knew it was shown in vivid detail, in living color, on the ever-illuminated 19 inch screen in my family living room.
A diet rich in high fructose corn syrup, sodium and preservatives was tantalizingly promoted by the marketing geniuses of the day.
My loving parents demonstrated their deep affection for their family by providing the kinds of foods that were portrayed in those glowing scenarios. It never occurred to us that Madison Avenue had anything nefarious in mind. They showed us what we had to have, and we dutifully went out and filled our shopping carts with these yummy, brightly packaged consumables.
Some red flags went up when I was in the fifth grade and the school nurse called my mother in for a conference regarding my weight. I was a fat kid. I needed to go on a diet when I was 10. I was introduced to calorie counting and cyclamates. One of the worst days of my young life was when cyclamates were banned for being carcinogenic. I had really enjoyed the foods that were flavored with those less-than-wholesome substances. Other sugar substitutes came along (aspartame and sucralose) to take their place in my dietary lexicon. After all, how enjoyable is life without diet soda?
I have fought weight gain my entire life. My quest for health has lead me to embrace more physical activity and a diet that goes against everything that constituted “normalcy” in my childhood. And this direction has developed as a direct result of having witnessed both my parents’ sad endings.
My father suffered myriad illnesses that had to do with his smoking (another habit promoted by Madison Avenue in an earlier time), consuming processed foods and not getting much exercise. He succumbed to congestive heart failure and vascular dementia, among many other things. He died at 76.
My mother, who had Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure developed dementia with psychosis and died at 86.
Everyone dies. But the suffering endured by my parents, and their descent into dementia was prompted by their diet and lifestyle. Understand, I am not blaming them. They were pursuing the American Dream, as seen on television. Nobody told them how the story would end for them. And I don’t know how differently they might have departed had they known what I have since learned.
I do know that food is medicine (or poison). What we consume plays an enormous role in how our bodies repair themselves and how we age. We don’t have to develop dementia. We can have some impact on how we mature. Unfortunately, the makers of the stuff that’s actually good for us don’t have a whole lot of money to advertise to us. They’re too busy struggling to make a living. So instead of leading a life that incorporates healthful food and smarter lifestyle choices, if we watch TV, we’ll be shown commercials promoting drugs that address the symptoms garnered by consumption of “convenience foods” packed with preservatives and chemically-derived flavor enhancers. And we’ll think of these as “normal.”
If you “ask your doctor,” as the commercial voiceovers suggest, they will likely confirm what you see on the screen, because they are taught to treat symptoms. The medical school curriculum does not include nutrition. They learn about conditions and how to treat them with drugs and procedures. Root causes are not discussed.
And turn off the TV. That’s probably one of the single best things you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s.